April 2014 Travel Column

Normandy 70 Years Later

In the early morning of June 6, 1944, waves of Allied soldiers came ashore on the
beaches of the Normandy region of France. It was D-Day, the beginning of the
Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II. The Allies had misled
the Nazis to believe that the invasion would begin in a different location on
the north coast of France; still, there were considerable defenses in place at
Normandy. Thousands of Allied soldiers from the U.S., the United Kingdom,
Canada, France, Poland, Norway and several other countries, as well as
thousands of Germans, lost their lives in the Battle of Normandy.

This year brings the 70th anniversary of that historic battle, and
Normandy is ready to welcome visitors – including some of the remaining
veterans and their families – to those windswept beaches. Several heads of
state, including President Obama, plan to attend the solemn ceremonies that
will mark the anniversary.

Visitors can explore the bunkers, tanks and Atlantic Wall defenses that remain in place
along Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword beaches, as well as the many memorials
that honor the troops. On a cliff overlooking Omaha Beach, the beautiful yet
powerfully moving Normandy American Cemetery marks the graves of more than
9,000 troops with lines of white crosses.

The people of Normandy also mark each anniversary of the battle with a D-Day
Festival, a celebration of liberty. This year’s festival will feature an air
show, parachute jumps, parades, concerts, military camp reconstructions, and a
“giant picnic” and Liberation Ball on Omaha Beach. On June 5, there will be a
spectacular display of synchronized fireworks, fired from 24 D-Day sites along
the coast, at 11 p.m.

There’s much more to see in Normandy, where the landscapes inspired many Impressionist
painters. Visitors enjoy seeing the historic town of Bayeux and its cathedral,
consecrated in 1077 in the presence of William the Conqueror; the Joan of Arc
Church and Museum in Rouen; and the abbey, monastery and fortifications of Mont
Saint-Michel. There’s an abundance of inns and restaurants where you can sample
the region’s specialties, including oysters, Boursin cheese, brioche and Andouille
sausage. While Normandy isn’t a wine-producing region, it’s known for delicious
hard cider and apple brandy.

To plan a visit to Normandy during the 70th anniversary of D-Day or any
time, talk with your travel professional.


Tiananmen Square

Beijing, China, most recently celebrated for hosting the 2008 Summer Olympic Games
remains a somewhat mysterious and now modern capital city. But less than 20
years earlier, a very fateful and dramatic day captivated the world with a
searing image of a student standing in front of a tank in a demonstration for
democratic values.

After being ruled for thousands of years by hereditary monarchies, China has been governed
by the Communist Party since 1949. Resistance to party governance occasionally
flares in Beijing, and never more memorably than on June 4, 1989, when the
Chinese military used deadly force to clear the enormous Tiananmen Square of
protesters. Students had begun gathering in the square in mid-April to mourn
the death of Hu Yaobang, a liberal-leaning former party leader; by June 3, as
many as a million people were protesting against the government in the square.
Late that evening, Army troop carriers and tanks arrived.

The following day, cameras captured the image of a lone man staring down a line of
tanks: “Tank Man” became the iconic image of the Tiananmen Square Massacre,
known in China as the June Fourth Incident.

 Today, 25 years later, the atmosphere in Tiananmen Square is much different. One of
the world’s largest squares, Tiananmen is a popular destination for local
residents and tourists. It’s flanked by the National Museum of China; the Great
Hall of the People, where the National People’s Congress meets; Zhengyangmen
Gate, part of the original city walls; and the Forbidden City, a fascinating
complex of palaces, temples and gardens that was home to Chinese emperors for
nearly 500 years.

Tiananmen Square also holds the mausoleum of Mao Zedong, the founder of the People’s
Republic of China. A large portrait of Chairman Mao hangs on Tiananmen Gate;
many visitors pause to take a photo with the portrait in the background.

Visitors should expect to pass through airport-style security before entering the square,
which is always under surveillance and has a notable police presence. If you
visit Chairman Mao’s mausoleum, be aware that you won’t be able to carry in any
bags, backpacks or cameras.

It’s possible to visit Beijing and Tiananmen Square via land-based tour, as a stop
on a cruise of Asia, or on your own: for more information, talk with your
travel professional.


Top Up and Coming Destinations in Europe

If you’re looking for a new destination in Europe, Travel Leaders Group’s
most recent survey of travel trends revealed which emerging European
destinations are being booked most often by the travel company’s expert agents
throughout North America. In order, they are:

Croatia. Shaped something like a boomerang with one arm along the Adriatic Sea and one extending inland,
Croatia’s natural beauty and historic sites are attracting more visitors each
year. To help visitors organize a tour, the Croatia Tourist Board identified
eight distinct tourist regions, including the Dalmatian Coast, featuring
Dubrovnik and its beautiful Old Town (often featured in the HBO drama “Game of
Thrones”; the heart-shaped peninsula of Istria, dotted with medieval towns; and
the mountains and plains of the Slavonia region.

Iceland. It’s close to the Arctic Circle, but Iceland’s name is a bit misleading. About 10% of the
island nation is covered by ice, and you may be surprised by the mildness of
the climate. Summer is the best time to visit, for the weather and the fact
that the sun sets only briefly, creating long days for touring glaciers and
geysers, hot springs, steep fjords, lava fields and tumbling waterfalls. With
Delta Air Lines offering summer flights, it’s no wonder that Iceland has become
a truly “cool” destination.

Turkey. Turkey literally forms a land bridge from Eastern Europe to Western Asia. There are wonderful
things to do and see all over Turkey, including the bustling markets of
Istanbul and Izmir; the beaches of the Turquoise Coast; trekking in the
forested mountains along the Black Sea; skiing in the eastern mountains; and marveling
at the moon-like landscapes of Cappadocia.

Czech Republic. Nestled between Germany, Poland, Slovakia and Austria, this small nation has an
eventful past, having been part of several empires and kingdoms before a German
occupation during World War II. Today, the country is peaceful, and visitors
delight in the many beautiful castles, fortresses, churches and monasteries, as
well as ski resorts, vineyards, spa towns and the picturesque city of Prague.

Portugal. Portugal occupies most of the Iberian Peninsula’s Atlantic coast – Spain cover the rest
– and packs an amazing variety of landscapes into its 350-mile length. The
northern mountains are covered with terraced vineyards; two-thirds of the way
down the coast lie the whitewashed limestone buildings of Lisbon; and in the far
south are the glamorous beaches and golf courses of the Algarve region.

To explore any of these emerging destinations before more of your fellow travelers discover them, talk with your
travel professional.


with Pets

Pets have become a common sight in airports and hotels. If you’d
like to bring your beloved pet along on your next vacation, here are some
things to know.

It’s often possible for a pet to fly with you as carry-on or
checked baggage. Ask your travel professional to help you understand the
recommendations and requirements for your specific flight: requirements vary
not only by airline, but by the size of the plane and the size of your pet. The
requirements and restrictions are designed to protect the health and well-being
of your pet. For example, many airlines will not accept snub- or pug-nosed dogs
or cats: while airplane cabins and cargo holds are pressurized and temperature-controlled,
these pets can still experience breathing difficulties in flight.

For example, Delta Air Lines requires pets that travel in the
cabin to fit comfortably in a carrier that can fit under the seat in front of
you. Certain pets, such as snakes and other reptiles, may not be allowed in the
cabin. Delta’s one-way pet fees start at $75 and vary depending on the
destination. And yes, even with the fee, your pet carrier counts as a piece of
carry-on luggage.

Be aware that your airline may not be able to accept pets in the
cabin to or from certain international destinations; or in the cargo hold
during very hot or cold weather. If pets can be on board, many flights only accept
only a small number, so make your reservations well in advance.

Hotels don’t have to deal with the complications presented by air
travel, but some ban pets altogether in order to avoid unwelcome noise or
messes. Other hotels pride themselves on being pet-friendly, including some
high-end operators. For example, the Renaissance Atlanta Midtown Hotel is steps
from a dog park and offers personalized tags, complimentary treats, convenient
food and water bowls and pet sitting services.

Charges for pets vary by hotel type, market and type of pet, but
generally range from $25 to $100 per night. However, the “It’s a Dog’s World”
package at the Fairmont hotel in Washington, D.C., offers plenty of canine
amenities at no extra charge. The hotel will even donate 5% of your room rate
to the Washington Animal Rescue League.

For more pet travel advice and assistance, talk with your travel

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